Born Brian Donnelly in 1974 in New Jersey, Kaws studied illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York. After graduating, he worked briefly as a freelance illustrator on Disney’s 101 Dalmatians and the animated series Daria and Doug. He began using the name Kaws as a young graffiti artist in Jersey City. It was not until after he relocated to New York City in the 1990s that he began employing “subvertising,” a practice of parodying and spoofing corporate and political advertisements on billboards, phone booths, and bus shelters; his subvertising has appeared in cities around the world, including London, Paris, Berlin and Tokyo.
KAWS is a multi-faceted artist straddling the worlds of art and design in his prolific body of work that ranges from paintings, murals, and large-scale sculptures to product design and toy-making. His iconic “XX” signature has its roots in the beginning of his career as a street artist in the 1990s, when he began altering found advertisements by incorporating his own masterful paintings. Evoking the sensibilities of Pop artists like Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, KAWS possesses a sophisticated humor and thoughtful interplay with consumer products and collaborations with global brands. He often draws inspiration and appropriates from popular culture animations to form a unique artistic vocabulary and influential cast of hybrid cartoon and human characters.